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Attorney Asks 2 Trials In Slaying Teens Both Face Murder Charge In Shooting Of Usfs Employee

The attorney for one of the youths charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a U.S. Forest Service engineer wants separate trials.

Eric Brown, 18, on Friday pleaded innocent in the April 26 slaying of David J. Wheeler of Baker City, Ore. Seventeen-year-old Ron Stiner told 3rd District Judge Dennis Goff he needed more time before entering a plea.

The two are accused of escaping from an Elmore County detention trailer, stealing a truck and driving to the Mann Creek area on the Payette National Forest.

Prosecutors say the two encountered Wheeler, who was shot in the head with a .357 magnum pistol.

Brown, 18, also pleaded innocent to grand theft, a charge stemming from his alleged possession of a flatbed truck.

If Brown and Stiner are convicted of first-degree murder, they could face either the death penalty or life in prison plus about $55,000 in fines.

A grand theft conviction carries a maximum of 14 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Brown’s trial is scheduled for Sept. 18. Although he - like Stiner - was 17 at the time of the shooting, Brown is being tried as an adult.

His trial is expected to take about 10 days.

“It is our position that the cases should be tried separately,” said Brown’s attorney, Bob Taisey. “It’s really just a matter of strategy.”

Stiner is scheduled to enter a plea for both charges on June 16. His attorney, Tim Felton, also declined to say whether he is hoping to plea bargain the case to a lesser charge than first-degree murder.

Washington County Prosecutor Ira Burton and federal prosecutor Mark Haws have requested hair, blood and DNA samples from Brown, Taisey said.

Goff told Taisey and Felton that two or three additional attorneys would be appointed to help them defend Brown and Stiner.

Once their hourly rates are determined - as required by law - Washington County will pick up the tab.